Reese Witherspoon goes “Wild” on the big screen



Five of us had the chance to see the movie depiction of Cheryl Strayed’s marvelous book Wild last night. While film adaptations of books can sometimes be disappointing, in this case the effort done to accurately represent the book by the screenwriter, the director, and the actors was phenomenal. Wild literally comes to life, step-by-arduous-step, right before your eyes. Reese Witherspoon IS Cheryl Strayed in this film and literally goes Wild on the big screen.

Reese’s portrayal will certainly earn her many nominations and hopefully she will receive many awards. To me, the movie Wild is Reese’s most brilliant and grittiest performance thus far in her acting career. Laura Dern deserves many kudos as well for her fine portrayed of Cheryl’s mother.

Go see Wild, as you will not be disappointed. All five of us (two of which have read the book) highly recommend it. Cheers!



Posted in art, book reviews, entertainment, walking, film, trails, books, fitness, Active transportation, family, feminism, humanity, Love, movies, pictures, Travel, video, Women, hiking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review of “American Chinatown, A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods”



In American Chinatown, author Bonnie Tsui has written a compelling and reflective historical account of five Chinatowns in the United States. But, what truly brings this text to life are the lives and experiences of those residents who she interviews during her travels to/thru San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Las Vegas. While some of the commentary may come across as redundant, it does speak to the hopes, dreams, and first impressions of those who come to America, as well as the necessity to establish ethnic enclaves initially for safety and comfort while adjusting to a new country and later for preserving those cherished aspects of their heritage and own homeland culture.

I found the accounts of how Chinatown residents in Los Angeles were employed in the movies during Hollywood’s heydays to be both interesting and rather disquieting. In addition, as an urban planner by profession, the rise of the suburban Chinatown model in Las Vegas (and now in Orlando and other cities too) to be quite informative, especially as Greater Lansing has been annually celebrating the Chinese New Year at a local mall for the past few years.



If you are interested in history, culture, city planning, geography, diversity, socio-economics, demographics, and many other fields, American Chinatown is a read you will certainly enjoy and appreciate. This book is loaded with interesting and sometimes disturbing reflections on American society and how it treats new arrivals and the less fortunate.

Here are few gems from Ms. Tsui’s book to whet your appetite:

“In a republic that was constantly renewing itself with new immigrant pools, xenophobia moved rapid-fire from one group to the next.” (page 8)

“On my first visit to the City by the Bay’s famous Chinatown, I was reminded of Disney World.” (page 15)

“And it is hard to understand the history of the Chinese in America without recognizing the depth of anti-Chinese virulence they faced from the beginning.” (page 25)

“…the new immigrants are the ones who are sustaining Chinatown, and we want to improve life for them, but if there isn’t a continuing influx of the less affluent, then the Chinatown itself becomes merely ornamental.” (page 29)

“In many Chinatowns across the United States, youth exodus is the norm. The things that many visitors find unpleasant about Chinatown – it’s crowded feel, dirty streets – are the same factors that spur residents to leave once they can afford to. Despite its splashy outward façade as a popular tourist destination, San Francisco’s Chinatown is a place where, internally, most residents skirt the poverty line.” (page 33)

“Part of what appeals to Americans about Chinatown is the promise of exotic within a few blocks of home…Pass through Chinatown Gate, and there’s a world apart to taste – you can listen to a foreign language, try to barter for a trinket on the street, or visit a historic temple without ever leaving the country.” (page 47)

“Chinatown is a physical place, but it’s also an idea.” (page 138)

“Here in Chinatown, longtime connections and trusted relationships carry weight across generations.” (page 149)

“Honolulu was the first place I remember feeling at home as a Chinese American, within and without Chinatown.” (page 155)

“The way a Chinatown looks has always been important to how outsiders perceive it.” (page 185)

“It makes sense that the American Chinatown is moving in this direction, and that Las Vegas is the chosen land of this enterprise. The mall was born in America. So was suburban sprawl….It’s only logical that ethnoburbs would follow, as different people look for new centers to congregate around.” (page 205)

“…perhaps the biggest surprise was finding out that racial prejudice made itself known here [Las Vegas] just as intensely as it did in every other Chinatown in the history of America.” (page 208)

p.s.  Here’s a weblink to an excellent 2014 companion article by author Bonnie Tsui that appeared in the New York Times entitled “Chinatown Revisited.” 

Posted in architecture, art, Asia, book reviews, books, branding, China, cities, civics, commerce, Communications, Cuisine, culture, diversity, economics, entertainment, entrepreneurship, family, geography, globalization, historic preservation, history, humanity, immigration, inclusiveness, land use, literature, marketing, North America, placemaking, planning, politics, poverty, racism, reading, spatial design, third places, tourism, Trade, Travel, urban planning, Welcome, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seasonal city and town names



Below is my list of cities and towns with one of the seasons in its name. The list does not include community names with obvious references to water(falls) or mineral/hot (springs).

Not surprisingly, “spring” is the most common season term used in place names. Given how many people love fall/autumn, it is quite surprising how few places include those terms in their name. Also surprising is how few places include “summer,” particularly compared to “winter.” Many of the “winter” place names are semi-intentional branding ploys to attract snowbirds, particularly in Florida. It’s interesting that similar place naming has not occurred in other warm-climate states of the Sunbelt.

As always, any additions to the list are most welcome provided they don’t include “springs” and “falls.”

WINTER (10 variations)

  • Winter Beach, FL, USA
  • Winter Garden, FL, USA
  • Winter Haven, FL, USA
  • Winter Park, CO and FL, USA
  • Winterport, ME, USA
  • Winters, CA and TX, USA
  • Winterset, IA, USA
  • Winter Springs, FL, USA
  • Winterville, GA, USA
  • Wintersville, OH, USA

SPRING (27 variations)

  • Primavera, Brazil and Chile
  • Spring, TX, USA
  • Spring Arbor, MI, USA
  • Springboro, OH, USA
  • Spring City, PA, TN, and UT, USA
  • Spring Creek, NV, USA
  • Springdale, AR, OH, PA, and SC, USA and NF, Canada
  • Springer, NM and OK, USA
  • Springfield, MO, MA, IL, OH, and many other states, USA and ON, Canada
  • Spring Garden Estates, MD, USA
  • Spring Green WI, USA
  • Spring Grove, IL, MN, and PA, USA
  • Springhill, LA, USA
  • Spring Hill, FL, KS, PA, and TN, USA
  • Spring Hope, NC, USA
  • Spring Lake, MI, NJ, NC, USA
  • Spring Lake Heights, NJ, USA
  • Spring Lake Park, MN, USA
  • Springlee, KY, USA
  • Springport, MI, USA
  • Springside, SK, Canada
  • Springtown, TX, USA
  • Springvale, ME, USA
  • Spring Valley, CA, IL, KY, MN, NV, NY, TX, and WI, USA
  • Springview, NE, USA
  • Springville, AL, CA, IA, and NY USA
  • Springerville, AZ, USA

SUMMER (9 variations)

  • El Verano, CA, USA
  • Summer City, MD and TN, USA
  • Summerfield, NC, USA
  • Summerland, CA, USA and BC, Canada
  • Summerside, OH, USA and PEI, Canada
  • Summerton, SC and TN, USA
  • Summertown, TN, USA
  • Summerville, GA and SC, USA
  • Summersville, MO and WV, USA

FALL/AUTUMN (7 variations)

  • Fall Branch, TN, USA
  • Fallbrook, CA, USA
  • Fall City, WA, USA
  • Fall Creek, WA, USA
  • Fallon, NV, USA
  • Fall River, MA and WI, USA and NS, Canada
  • Fall River Mills, CA, USA
Posted in branding, cities, climate change, marketing, seasons, weather | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Michigan needs a Car Czar like a hole in the head



It was recently announced that Michigan’s Governor has appointed a new Car Czar. Really? In a state that is already far too over-dependent on the automobile, we need a Car Czar to tip the scales even further towards one industry? Dang! After living in Michigan for nearly 23 years, I think I’ve heard this same old song and dance before. And each time, we proceed to get burned when the next downturn occurs (and it will) by the fact that we have thrown all our eggs into a single economic basket.

What Michigan really needs is an Active Transportation Czar (bicycling, walking, and mass transit). Why? Because, not only are we too dependent on cars for livelihoods, we as a state are woefully dependent on cars for getting around – hence Michigan’s sad and consistent ratings regarding obesity.

Michigan should be taking its extensive automotive expertise and applying it to the design and manufacturing of:

  • Bicycles
  • E-Bikes
  • Scooters
  • Passenger and freight trains
  • Streetcars and commuter trains
  • Buses
  • Airplanes
  • Boats and ferries
  • as well as cars

Think this is folly? Well, be prepared for a surprise, because the cycling industry employes more people in Europe (more than 650,000) than the automotive industry. Here’s a snippet from the findings:

“…a cycling economy that employs more than 655,000 people in industries such as retail, manufacturing, infrastructure investment, and tourism.

On just two wheels, the industry is creating more jobs than Europe’s high-fashion footwear industry (388,000 jobs), its well-established steel sector (410,000), and the United States’ Big Three automobile companies (Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler) combined (510,000).

Holger Haubold, fiscal and economic policy officer at the European Cyclists’ Federation, which commissioned the study, said that cycling allows cities and countries to cut carbon emissions without hindering economic growth.”


Instead, our state’s blinder-wearing worship of the almighty automobile will yet again lead us down the primrose path to economic upheaval. It’s just a matter of time before the auto industry will have a cyclical downturn, as it has many times before. And once again, the near-sighted politicos will wonder what happened. Well, I will tell you what happened. Our state appointed a new Car Czar in 2014, instead of pursuing, pushing, and exploring exciting new avenues of economic nirvana in active transportation or other areas.

Shame on them for doing so and shame on us for not speaking up more resoundingly.


Posted in Active transportation, Advocacy, Alternative transportation, bicycling, Bus transportation, Cars, climate change, culture, economic development, economic gardening, Economy, entrepreneurship, environment, government, health, history, planning, product design, Railroads, Renewable Energy, Small business, sustainability, transit, transportation, walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Memorable quotes from MAP’s Transportation Bonanza 6

thCAU7SJJBHere’s my list of some of the best and most memorable quotes (sometimes paraphrased) that were heard at the Michigan Association of Planning’s (MAP’s) Transportation Bonanza held on December 11th in Lansing. Enjoy!

  •  “A vision needs a plan; otherwise, it’s a dream.” (Ian Lockwood, PE)


  • “In Houston, the last thing you put on when you get up in the morning is your car.” (Ian Lockwood, PE)


  • “It’s not what the AASTHO guidelines say, it’s how you interpret them.” (Ian Lockwood, PE)


  • “We are using infrastructure investment to restore humanity.” (Paul Morris, FAICP)


  • “Efficiency is not moving quickly, it’s proximity.” (Hannah Pritchard, PE)


  • “The challenge of a behavior change program is not short-term intervention; it’s getting it to stick.” (Mark Fenton)


  • “We must build communities where people are intrinsically more active.” (Mark Fenton)


  • “Elected, appointed officials, and staff must be supported if expected to act courageously.” (Mark Fenton)


And for my fellow Michiganders:


  • “Ann Arbor-Saline Road at I-94 is not a network…it’s a knot.” (Hannah Pritchard, PE)
Posted in Active transportation, Advocacy, Alternative transportation, bicycling, Cities, environment, geography, health, infrastructure, land use, placemaking, planning, spatial design, transportation, urban planning, walking, zoning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Billion dollar ‘cry’ babies



I am little curious if anyone else in the planning or development review profession has noticed the following:

Those applicants (developers, businesses, or firms) with the deepest pockets are the ones most likely to whine about the application requirements. It doesn’t matter whether it is the fee, the number of copies, the rules, or the required ancillary materials, they tend to be the ones who cry and complain like Billion Dollar Babies.

Please feel free to pass along any funny or interesting stories.

Posted in architecture, cities, commerce, Communications, land use, planning, urban planning, zoning | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Earth acne amid equatorial glaciers

Below is a satellite image of the Grasberg Mine amid the snowy high peaks of far eastern Indonesia. To the right of the mine itself are several glaciers. Hopefully neither the existing mine and/or any future extension(s) will harm the glaciers, which are quite uncommon at this equatorial latitude.  Global warming is melting them away all too fast as it is. Sadly, there has been environmental damage resulting from tailings runoff into rivers from this mine.



Posted in Advocacy, aerospace, Asia, economic development, environment, geography, Geology, globalization, infrastructure, land use, Mining, nature, pictures, planning, pollution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment